Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Sept. 15: Pharmacy Chains Start to Offer New Vaccine, Indian Officials Fight Deadly Outbreak of Nipah Virus

How to Interpret News of the New Coronavirus Vaccine

By Jonathan Spira on 15 September 2023
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A nurse at a N.Y.C. vaccine center waits for a patient

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,283rd day of the pandemic.


How to Interpret News of the New Coronavirus Vaccine

The 2023 formulation of the coronavirus vaccine became available Friday in the United States after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the jab for anyone over the age of 6 months.

The new shots arrive just as the country hits the fall and winter respiratory virus season and just as new vaccines for influenza and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus are becoming available.

It’s important to note it’s not a booster dose.  It’s a standalone vaccine shot, just like an annual flu shot.  The updated version isn’t intended to prevent infection, but it is designed to reduce the severity of symptoms for those who contract SARS-CoV-2 and also to curb the risk of contracting “Long Covid,” a condition that regular readers of this space know I have been suffering from for close to two years.

Get the new coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available in your area: Data shows that it offers protection against the new EG.5 and FL.1.5.1 omicron subvariants in addition to BA.2.86.

While you’re at it, get the new flu vaccine and, if your doctor thinks it advisable, the RSV jab as well.

There is one thing to keep in mind, namely that this is the first time that the federal government isn’t paying for and distributing the vaccine given that the public health emergency expired in May. The current coronavirus vaccine is available from the drug companies just like the flu shot and other vaccines.

However, the vaccine should still be available at no cost to people who have both commercial and government-sponsored insurance such as Medicare and Medicaid.  If you’re not eligible for a free dose based on these criteria, it pays to check with your jurisdiction’s department of health as there will still be limited availability of vaccines at no charge to people without insurance and people who don’t have sufficient insurance coverage.

In other news we report today, pharmacy chains are rolling out the new Covid vaccine in the United States, India is fighting the deadly Nipah virus, and UK regulators approved Moderna’s 2023 formulation of the coronavirus vaccine.


Large pharmacy chain stores including CVS and Walgreens began accepting appointments for obtaining a dose of the new 2023 coronavirus vaccine.  A check by the Morning News Brief in one dozen jurisdictions across the country showed excellent availability, generally starting on Tuesday of the coming week.

The estimated 25-to-30 million people who do not have health insurance in the country will nonetheless have access to the new coronavirus vaccine at no charge.  The inoculations will be paid for by the government’s Bridge Access Program, a CDC initiative to provide the jab via local healthcare providers, local healthcare centers, and select pharmacies.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic’s two chairman told CIA director William Burns that it had heard “new testimony from a highly credible whistleblower” who alleged that the agency “rewarded six analysts with significant financial incentives to change their Covid-19 origins conclusion from a lab-leak to zoonosis.”

The CIA confirmed on Friday that it was “looking into” the accusations.

“At [the] CIA we are committed to the highest standards of analytic rigor, integrity and objectivity,” said agency spokesperson Tammy Kupperman Thorp in a statement. “We do not pay analysts to reach specific conclusions.”

Kupperman Thorpe added that “[W]e take these allegations extremely seriously and are looking into them. We will keep our Congressional oversight committees appropriately informed.”

In Florida, the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, warned state residents against being used as “guinea pigs” by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite the fact that the updated vaccines follow the same process for approval as updates for flu and other vaccines.

Florida reported the highest proportion of counties with “moderate” Covid hospitalizations rate – 47 out of 63 – in the country in the most recent CDC data.

Covid rates there have reached the highest since January 2023.


The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom said on Friday it has approved an updated coronavirus vaccine by Moderna. The move makes the Moderna vaccine the second shot to be used authorized for use in the country’s vaccination campaign this autumn.

The highly mutated omicron subvariant BA.2.86 was detected in Germany for the first time, the Robert Koch Institut in Germany reported on Friday. The subvariant has recently been detected in multiple countries including Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  The World Health Organization has labeled it a “variant under monitoring.”


Health authorities in southern India are rushing to stem the spread of the deadly Nipah virus. The virus is less transmissible than SARS-CoV-2 but it exhibits a much higher fatality rate.  There have been two deaths in Kerela, a state in that part of the country.  Contacts of the handful of people who have tested positive with the virus are being identified and isolated.  People who contract the Nipah virus will typically experience early symptoms such as a headache and or drowsiness, followed by seizures or, in severe cases, a comatose state.


Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, September 15.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded just over 695.29 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.04 million from the previous day, and 6.92 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 667.3 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.04 million from the prior day.

The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday at press time is 21,071,938, a decrease of 1,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 21,033,999, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 37,939, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past eight months.

The test positivity rate for Covid in the United States for the week ending September 9 was 23.05% down from 23.13% the prior week, according to data from the CDC Respiratory Virus Laboratory Emergency Department Network Surveillance, or RESP-LENS By comparison, the test positive rate for influenza was 1.27%, up from 1.05%, and, for RSV, that figure was 1.25%, up from 0.88%.

The percentage of deaths due to Covid was 2.3% in the week ending September 9, 2023, a figure that is up 4.5% over the previous week.

Finally, the number of hospital admissions from Covid for seven days ending September 2 was 18,871, a figure that is up 8.7% over the preceding week.

As of March 25, 2023, the Morning News Brief began to update case data as well as death tolls on a weekly basis.  In addition, as of May 15, 2023, the Morning News Brief has pressed pause on certain data sets as we assess the update of changes in reporting by U.S. health authorities at the CDC.  Where appropriate, the Morning News Brief has reintroduced data sets are they have become available.

Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 108.42 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.18 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 45 million, and a reported death toll of 531,930.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July 2022, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 40.14 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.43 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 705,313, has recorded 37.79 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 34.57 million cases, as number six; Japan, with 33.8 million cases placing it in the number seven slot; and Italy, with 25.98 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.69 million, and Russia, with 23 million, as nine and ten respectively.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of August 5, the total number of updated bivalent doses given in the United States was 153.57 million, an increase of 1.06 million doses over the past month.

Older – and no longer updated – data from the CDC shows that over 270.2 million people in the United States – or 81.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of May 11, 2023. Of that population, 69.5%, or 230.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now over 676.7 million. Breaking this down further, 92.23% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79.1% of the same group – or 204.3 million people – is fully vaccinated.

Some 70.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Friday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.46 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 21,556 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 32.6% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.

In addition, with the beginning of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines in any significant number.

Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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